Court or­ders Bayelsa to re­turn oil well to Rivers

The Punch - - NEWS - Ade Ade­s­o­moju, Abuja

The Fed­eral high Court in Abuja on Mon­day or­dered the re­turn of Soku oil fields from Bayelsa State to its right­ful owner, Rivers State.

De­liv­er­ing judg­ment in a suit in­sti­tuted by Rivers State, Jus­tice Inyang Ekwo or­dered the Na­tional Bound­ary Com­mis­sion to ef­fect the trans­fer by rec­ti­fy­ing the er­ror in its 11th Edi­tion of the Ad­min­is­tra­tive Map of Nige­ria, which des­ig­nated San Bartholome­w River, in­stead of River Santa Barbara, as the bound­ary be­tween the two states.

Ac­cord­ing to the judge, the er­ror, which was said to have sur­faced in the 11th Edi­tion of Ad­min­is­tra­tive Map pro­duced by the NBC in 2002, has neg­a­tively im­pacted the oil rev­enues ac­cru­able to Rivers State from the Fed­er­a­tion Ac­count due to the loss of the Soku Oil Field.

He, there­fore, made “an order di­rect­ing that the no­tice of the de­ci­sion of this hon­ourable court be served on the Rev­enue Mo­bil­i­sa­tion, Al­lo­ca­tion and Fis­cal Com­mis­sion and the Ac­coun­tant Gen­eral of the Fed­er­a­tion” to en­able them to start act­ing on the new map in com­put­ing the ad­di­tional oil rev­enues ac­cru­able to Rivers State fol­low­ing its re­gain­ing of the oil field.

The Supreme Court in a judg­ment de­liv­ered on July 19, 2012 or­dered the com­mis­sion to rec­tify the er­ror ex­pe­di­tiously by restor­ing Santa Barbara River as the in­ter­state bound­ary be­tween Rivers and Bayelsa states.

Cit­ing the apex court’s judg­ment on Mon­day, Jus­tice Ekwo said the NBC had in its let­ter dated July 3, 2002 re­ply­ing Rivers State gov­ern­ment’s protest ad­mit­ted its mis­take and promised to rec­tify it in the 12th edi­tion of the ad­min­is­tra­tive map but never did.

Fail­ure of the NBC to rec­tify the mis­take as promised made the Rivers State gov­ern­ment, through its At­tor­ney-gen­eral, to file a suit against the At­tor­ney Gen­eral of Bayelsa State and the At­tor­ney Gen­eral of the Fed­er­a­tion be­fore the Supreme Court in 2009.

The Supreme Court on July 10, 2012 ruled in favour of Rivers State and or­dered the rec­ti­fi­ca­tion of the er­ror.

By Au­gust 22, 2019, when the mis­take had yet to be cor­rected,

Rivers State Gov­ern­ment in­sti­tuted a suit be­fore the Fed­eral high Court in Abuja solely against the NBC seek­ing an order of man­damus com­pelling it to cor­rect its er­ror.

Grant­ing the plain­tiff’s prayers in his judg­ment de­liv­ered on Mon­day, Jus­tice Ekwo held that “the con­tin­ued fail­ure and/or re­fusal of the de­fen­dant (NBC) to rec­tify its ad­mit­ted mis­take in the 11th Edi­tion of the Ad­min­is­tra­tive Map of Nige­ria since 2002, which er­ro­neously showed San Bartholome­w in­stead of River Santa Barbara as the in­ter­state bound­ary be­tween the plain­tiff state and Bayelsa State, con­sti­tutes a breach of its statu­tory duty and a fla­grant dis­obe­di­ence to the order of the Supreme Court con­tained in its judg­ment de­liv­ered on July 10, 2012 in suit with num­ber SC.106/2009.”

It made “an order of man­damus or manda­tory in­junc­tion com­pelling the de­fen­dant (NBS) to rec­tify forth­with in the 12th Edi­tion of the Ad­min­is­tra­tive Map of Nige­ria, the er­ro­neous in­ter­state bound­ary be­tween Rivers State and Bayelsa State as con­tained in the ex­tant 11th Edi­tion of the Ad­min­is­tra­tive Map of Nige­ria”.

The court also made an order “deem­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tive bound­ary be­tween Rivers and Bayelsa states to be River Santa Barbara in ac­cor­dance with the ad­mis­sion of the de­fen­dant (NBC) as per its let­ter of July 3, 2002 and the de­fin­i­tive order of the Supreme Court en­tered and made on July 7, 2012.”

It also de­clared that “the con­tin­ued re­liance on the said de­fec­tive 11th Edi­tion of the Ad­min­is­tra­tive Map of Nige­ria by other gov­ern­ment agen­cies, statu­tory bod­ies, es­pe­cially the Rev­enue Mo­bil­i­sa­tion, Al­lo­ca­tion and Fis­cal Com­mis­sion and the Ac­coun­tant Gen­eral of the Fed­er­a­tion in com­pu­ta­tion of the rev­enue ac­cru­able to the plain­tiff from the Fed­er­a­tion Ac­count has re­sulted in the con­tin­ued un­just/un­fair de­nial of al­lo­ca­tion of deriva­tion funds/ money ac­cru­ing from the Soku Oil Fields/wells sit­u­ated within the Rivers State to the detri­ment of the plain­tiff.”

Re­act­ing to the judg­ment, Gov­er­nor Nye­som Wike said the state gov­ern­ment would con­tinue to fight and de­fend the in­ter­est of the state in order to pro­mote the wel­fare of her peo­ple.

The gov­er­nor, who spoke with jour­nal­ists in Port Har­court on Mon­day, added that the Soku oil wells/fields be­longed to the Rivers State be­fore they were il­le­gally ap­pro­pri­ated by the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment for Bayelsa State.

He said, “The judg­ment is very proper. Ev­ery­body knows that it is wrong that the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment col­lected our oil wells and ceded same to Bayelsa State. So, we took the right step by go­ing to court.

“We sued the Na­tional Bound­ary Com­mis­sion. By in­ter­pret­ing the Supreme Court judg­ment that for now, since you’re un­able to de­mar­cate the bound­ary, then let the oil wells be in Rivers State, where it used to be, pend­ing when the Na­tional Bound­ary Com­mis­sion is ready to im­ple­ment the Supreme Court judg­ment.

“We are happy for what hap­pened today. We don’t be­lieve in fight­ing; we only be­lieve in fol­low­ing due process.”

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